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Wednesday, 24 November 2010


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Do you buy all these books, Duffers, or are you a Public Library man?

I might well be wrong (however that's never been a hindrance) but didn't the Poles play some part in the machinations?

Alas, DM, I'm a Bookaholic and have to be dragged screaming and kicking past any bookshop but yesterday I was on my own so I just sneaked in for a quick look . . . !

JK, yes, the Poles were the first to crack the Enigma machine and, bless their mad, passionate, little socks they managed to get the results to us (inlcuding, I believe, an actual machine) just before the Germans over-ran their country. Later the Germans changed the design settings so we had to start all over again.

"...[T]he only fly in the ointment was that the US Navy branch dealing with this work refused to co-operate not only with us but with their own army counterparts, as well..."

The above David, I must admit, surprised even me. But it did give me something to do while the rest of my American kin/friends were otherwise engaged - all I need do is show up to eat, I enjoy no requests to participate in preparation, despite my oft admired ability to open cans of cranberry variants.

The USN, as I understand it, did co-operate with the US Army early in the Pacific effort but "reluctance" surfaced immediately following Midway. You may recall the USAF did not exist separate from the Army prior to '48 - too you may know, the US Army Air Force dispatched a squadron of B-17s toward Midway during the run-up to the USN's "laying the trap" to lure in the Jap carriers. And, though at this point I'm uncertain, I'm pretty sure the Japs would've been doing recon over Midway and had B-17s been detected - well... of course I am limited to conjecture at present - but "my guess" is, the Japs might've considered "the presence of AAF, USMC, and Navy components present for a minor de-salinization problem seems somehow odd..."

But do understand, this is only conjecture on my part.

As for changing the Enigma settings - it's my understanding the Germans only added a single 'type-set wheel' but did not change the "period-adjustments" which would leave the Polish achievements intact.

I have no argument (nor reasonable theory - given the Historical context) for doubting the British Navy would have had more incentive to "break" Japanese Naval codes than any other maritime power of the era. "We" in the US should always keep that in mind.

Here's a pleasant American treat: Rex Stewart's solo in honour of Bix.

JK, I cannot find any reference in the books I have to this dispute between US Navy and Army code-breakers but no doubt Smith will spell it out later in his book. It did not surprise me given the mutual hostility (I use the word deliberately) between Adm. King and not only the army but everyone else in the world who wasn't US navy! In particular there was a perpetual turf war between King and McArthur over strategy in the Pacific.

I have checked my books and can find no reference to any disupte over the stationing of B-17s on Midway other than the 9 extras which arrived on 31st May and the only complaint was that an already existing problem of over-crowding was now exacerbated.

As for the Enigma machine, as I understand it, whilst the possession of an actual machine was extremely useful it still required the likes of Alan Turing to design the world's first programmable computer, the 'Colossus', to work out susequent ciphers.

As and when I progress with Smith's book I will add another post.

DM, thanks for the link which I would dearly loved to have listened to but I had the usual stop/start problems. I think it must be something to do with my machine but fortunately 'SoD' is coming down at the weekend so I will see if he can fix it. Bloody irritating - grrrr!

One unamusing piece of boneheadedness - which may be apocryphal for all I know - was that the Foreign Office acquired an early version of the Enigma machine before the war, more or less as a trade sample. It remained in the basement, unremarked and gathering dust, as the desperated attempts to capture one from the Germans became increasingly frenzied...

I haven't heard that one before, 'H', but I would not be surprised. I suppose the final irony would have been if it was only discovered when the place was hit by a V1!

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